Spanish Seafood Recipes
The long coastline of Spain, combined with the two archipelagos, the
Balearics and the
Canaries, ensures that fresh fish and
shellfish are ubiquitous elements of the Spanish table.
section showcases only a small number of the dishes that cooks and chefs
throughout the country regularly prepare as seafood main courses, such as
suquet, the seafood stew of Catalonia; Dorada a la Sal, fish baked in
a salt crust from Murcia; and
txipirones en su tinta,
Basque-style squid in its own ink. Simpler grilled, pan-roasted, fried, and
boiled fish are popular menu items as well, typically accompanied with mojos,
vinaigrettes, or other sauces that add color, flavor, and a distinctive regional
Spaniards believe that some of their country's fish and shellfish taste
better when eaten in their place of origin, such as the angulas, or baby
eels, of the north; the carabineros, or jumbo red shrimp, of the south;
and the salmon of Asturias. But salt cod,
sometimes called the 'inland fish', crosses all borders.
In this section, you will find some regional dishes that star salt cod. My
favorite is the Basque
Bacalao al pil-pil, in which the hard
dried fish turns velvety and delicious when simmered in a
cazuela with olive oil. Bacalao con alioli from the
Balearic Islands pairs salt cod with the
region's emblematic sauce, while in tiznao from La Mancha, salt cod and
vegetables are grilled, chopped, and married with chiles and olive oil. Finally,
bacalao al ajoarriero from Navarra, named after the ajoarrieros or
'muleteers', who once transported salt cod along with other foods across Spain,
calls for braising the cod with potatoes, tomatoes, and eggs.
- Merluza en Salsa Verde: This
recipe is one of the front-runners of traditional Basque cooking. Salsa
verde appears in many dishes: with clams alone, with monkfish or fresh cod,
or with a combination of clams and hake, as in this recipe.
- Marmitako: Marmita translates as
'pot' or 'casserole' in Basque, while the suffix
ko is the genitive case, so that marmitako literally means 'from
the pot'. Of course, just about everything in Basque cooking comes 'from the
pot', but only this venerable dish goes by that name.
- Bacalao al Pil-Pil (Salt Cod in an Olive
oil Emulsion): Bacalao al Pil-Pil is a classic Basque fare. After you
prepare the garnish and simmer the cod for several minutes, you make the
sauce by engaging the cod in a 'dance' with the olive oil to create an
emulsion that looks very much like a mayonnaise. The dance is not without
challenge, but even the patient novice cook can produce an excellent result.
- Burrida de Raya - Skate in fish Stock: Fish soups with names similar to this one are common in the Mediterranean, with the type of fish and the seasoning varying with the locale. For example, Provençal cooks make bourride and serve it with the rust-colored sauce known as rouille, while Ligurian cooks make buridda and accompany it with fried bread. The burrida of the Balearics calls for skate in an allioli-enriched stock and thin slices of country-style bread.
- Grouper a la Mallorquina: When a fish is prepared a la mallorquina you know that it will be cooked with a variety of vegetables piled on top. Ideally, the fish is a whole and weighs at least five pounds. Grouper is a good choice, but so is red snapper, striped bass, John Dory, or any other lean, white fleshed fish. The crown of colorful vegetables not only looks pretty but also infuses the fish with sensational flavor.
- Caldereta de Langosta (Lobster Stew):
An exceptional Lobster stew, typical from the Balearic Islands, and
celebrated all over Spain.
- Spiced Clams: Spanish clams, specially in the North, are much larger than clams found
elsewhere, and have more succulent bodies. This modern recipe uses Arab spicing
to make a hot dip or sauce. Serve with plenty of fresh bread to mop up the
- Ceviche: You can use almost any firm-fleshed fish for this Spanish influenced dish,
provided that it is perfectly fresh. The fish is 'cooked' by the action of the
acidic lime juice. Adjust the amount of chilli according to your taste.
- Salt Cod Fritters with Allioli: Bacalao - salt cod - is one of the great Spanish delights, adding flavor to
bland ingredients such as potatoes. If you are unfamiliar with it, then this is
a delightful way to try it out. Bitesize fish cakes, dipped into rich, creamy,
garlicky allioli, are irresistible as a tapas dish or appetizer.
- Prawn croquettes: Croquetas are ubiquitous in Spain, although they most likely originate
from the French 'croquettes'. Their beauty lies in the bechamel base which is
then mixed with your particular ingredient of choice to give it a characteristic
flavor. The possibilities are almost endless - here we have used prawns.
- Prawn and Bacon Brochettes: The Spanish love bacon, which we cure and air-dry in the same way as our
famous jamon. This combination of prawns and bacon is inspired and very
popular, and can be found at most Tapas bar, as well as in many banquets and
receptions. It is an ideal treat for your guests when having a party at home!
- Artichokes with clams: Artichokes
are a popular vegetable in Spain, especially fresh from the market. They are
often served sautéed with ham or stuffed with white sauce and ham or meat,
etc. Sometimes served cold, they combine well with anchovies and piquillo peppers, or with salmon and capers, or tuna fish with a good olive
- Stuffed Mussels (Tigres): In Bilbao, these stuffed mussels are called
Tigres because of their
fieriness. I fondly remember the crowded little bars in the old part of
Bilbao, where orders of tigres would emerge by the dozens from the tiny
- Empanadas: Empanadas, bread pies stuffed with shellfish, fish or meats, are iconic of
Galician cuisine. The crusts and fillings vary from place to place, and nearly
every Galician family, restaurant, and tavern claims to have the secret formula
for making the best version. Of the many empanadas I have tasted in this
beautiful northwestern region, these ones are my favorites - their crust is
consistently delicate and delicious.
- Mussels Vinaigrette: Steamed mussels are dressed with a flavorful vinaigrette in this colorful
tapa. It is an ideal treat for a party or any event with lots of people
- Pulpo a Feira (Galician Octopus): Though it originated in Galicia or the neighboring region of Leon, pulpo a
feira, as it is known in Galician, or pulpo a la gallega, as it is called in
Spanish, is now popular throughout Spain. It is usually served on wooden plates
with cachelos, potatoes that have been boiled or roasted in embers with their
- Gambas a la plancha (Pan-grilled shrimp): Spaniards love to eat grilled shrimp at the counter of a good tapas bar while
sipping a glass of chilled fino sherry or cold beer. The bars are often crowded,
leaving little or no space for proper eating, and I find it fascinating to
watch the locals skillfully manage to eat shrimp with one hand while holding
a drink in the other.
- Tuna and goat cheese empanadillas: Empanadillas, the smaller, pocket-size
versions of empanadas, are generally served as tapas, and, because no
silverware is required to eat them, make perfect party food.
- Boquerones en Escabeche: Moorish Pickled Anchovies This is an old, old
way of preserving small fish which has survived into modern times because it
is so delicious. The coast round Nerja is known for its shoals of fresh
anchovies. In Malaga the fish are pressed together into a little fan, four
tails together, for frying, but this is not essential to the recipe.
Have a nice time! Buen provecho!